It looks like it’s finally Springtime in Colorado!  Wow……that was one long snow season, huh?  Spring means college graduation for thousands of newly minted professionals who are eager to begin their careers.  It’s also the time of year when current college students are looking for some relevant work over the summer……keyword internship.  If you are a hiring manager who is on the front lines competing for talent and frustrated with not being able to find the people you need, consider launching an internship program.  This doesn’t have to be a huge effort with lots of rules.  The best programs grow out of just giving it a try!

Interns come in many forms.  Don’t just think of traditional students – consider nontraditional interns as well. These are people who are perhaps returning to school and retooling themselves, mothers re-entering the workforce after a kid raising break or veterans returning from overseas and transitioning to the private sector.  These options might be more appealing to you if you have a small team and even interns need to be able to work independently.  Nontraditional interns will come with the working place etiquette that a college intern likely hasn’t acquired yet.

Here are some tips for getting started:

1.  Decide where you need an extra pair of hands.  The summer months have all kinds of fun challenges:  planning the summer picnic, coverage for a bunch of vacations, evaluating the impact of the upcoming healthcare regulations and research on just about any large project you have on your plate between now and the end of the year.

2.  Define the timeframe.  Is this a 6 week internship or an entire summer?  Do you need someone full time or part time?  One of the objections I hear from hiring managers is that they aren’t sure what to do with an intern 40 hours a week.  Why not make it 25 or 30 hours a week?  There isn’t a rule that says you have to have someone hanging around full time with nothing to do.

3.  Paid or unpaid?  If you can budget it, pay your intern.  The pay rate will depend on the skill level you are going after.  Generally speaking you should plan on between $15 and $30 per hour for non-clinical, non-scientific internships.

4.  Role description is required.  Your internship experience will be much more positive for everyone if you define the scope, duties and requirements for your intern in advance.

5.  Identify goals and objectives right out of the gate.  Most people like to know where they are going and what they are expected to accomplish.  Sit down with them on day one; discuss what needs to be done, any deadlines that they need to be aware of and what your desired outcome looks like.  Make sure they have the tools necessary to be successful, or are equipped with the information to find the tools.

6.  Plan on regular status meetings.  Again, this doesn’t have to be heavyweight, but plan on a brief meeting weekly with your intern to check in and respond to any roadblocks or questions.  Of course if something requires immediate attention, you’ll be available for that between scheduled meetings.

7.  Conduct an evaluation at the end.  This is critical and should be a 360 feedback event.  You will want to know what was accomplished, what worked, what didn’t work and where all related documentation is.  You will also want to provide your intern with constructive feedback that will help them in their future.

Internship programs can be a great source for future hires. They can also be part of your unofficial fan club.  If you are a small company, you need as many people as possible to know how awesome it is to be part of your team.

The bottom line:  start small, but start somewhere!

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